Editorial for October 4: Tinted windows: Where is the transparency?

In under three hours one day in February 2010, approximately 400 vehicles were pulled over by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service during an island-wide coordinated crackdown on traffic offenses.

Of those 400 vehicles, 88 motorists were given a choice: Strip the tinting from their windows or face prosecution. According to a police report, all of them agreed to remove the tint on the spot.
That was just a few hours in one day.

In one entire year – 2012 – the total number of tickets issued by the RCIPS for window tinting was 89. Even though the enforcement mechanisms were slightly different in 2010, can anyone reconcile these disparate numbers?

While window tinting may appear to be “small ball” in the current context of serious crime these islands are experiencing, it raises two very different but especially troubling issues:

First is the issue of arbitrary enforcement of statutes in the Cayman Islands legal code. There is great danger to a society that passes laws and then ignores them or, worse, enforces them inconsistently or arbitrarily.

Such an approach puts far too much power at the discretion of the police or, even worse, those with political influence. It has the additional unintended consequence of engendering disrespect for ALL laws. After all, who is to say, “Today we’ll enforce this law (as they did at the traffic stops in 2010), tomorrow maybe that one. Today we’ll pursue this perpetrator – but not that one.”)

Cayman would be well advised to engage in a thorough examination of all of its laws and purge the ones it has no intention of enforcing fairly, consistently and universally.

Second, back to the tinting, is the issue of the allocation of police resources. It would be foolhardy of the RCIPS in our current crime-ridden environment to waste time on anything but the most serious criminal matters. Certainly, we’re not advocating that.

But we still have the question of how hundreds, more likely thousands, of vehicles are on our streets with illegally tinted windows, illegal headlights, broken windshields, and other obvious infractions. How are these vehicles passing their annual inspections?

In recent years, private-sector service stations and vehicle repair shops have been empowered to carry out vehicle inspections on the behalf of the government. Such a delegation raises the uncomfortable, but obvious, question: “Who is inspecting the inspectors?”

We (and we bet you) are familiar with story after story of individuals who have received their annual inspection decals without their vehicles ever having left their driveways or parking lots. Our roads are bumper to bumper with clunkers, coughing and sputtering and spewing visible noxious fumes in their wakes.

And yet, supposedly, each and every one of them has “passed” inspection in the last 12 months.
Government and its departments should not be in the business of doing what they cannot – or will not – do well. As a people, we spend more than $700 million annually out of our personal paychecks to “purchase” government services.

We have every right to demand that in return for that extraordinary level of expenditure, we receive commensurate value in the form of high-quality, high-value, professionally delivered public services.